I have never been good at scheduling recovery time after a holiday. If I'm certain I can get a shower the day before my return, I'll choose to go right from the airport to the office (or currently have my husband do as much). Now our son is the victim of this habit and until he figures out there's an alternative, we'll keep drawing out our vacations to the very last minute.
After returning from Finland I did a few loads of laundry, made Z take a bath, and we were on our way to London's Kings Cross station to take the train to Scotland. C stayed behind for a few days to earn some money but I had no such obligation (though after 20 years together I finally agreed to do his laundry). I didn't realize until we walked into Kings Cross that the station itself is a tourist destination. What was this mob of people at platform 9 3/4 and why was it the only platform without a digital reader board? It wasn't until we moved to the other side of the crowd that I saw the luggage trolley half embedded in the brick wall and realized we were at the departure point to Hogwort's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. If you're a die hard Harry Potter fan, be sure to arrive wearing a long stripy scarf and get your photo taken appearing to push through that brick wall to the netherworld.
Thank goodness Z hasn't yet been touched by J.K. Rawlings or I might have been implored to stand in that line. We passed by the jumble to the very uncrowded Scotrail train waiting quietly for its passengers. Inside were tidy upholstered seats in groups of four facing each other where we'd spend the next 5 hours trying to avoid playing footsie with a stranger.
After half a day of reading, dozing and making sure the Angry Birds audio didn't bother the other passengers, we pulled into the compact city of Edinburgh. It's a visually beautiful place, like Seattle, primarily due to the blessings of a dramatic geography. The most imposing buildings are built atop rocky hills. On the tallest sits sprawling Edinburgh Castle, lording over the city like a menacing old man. What also impressed me about the city was its patina. Unlike London, which has been cleaned up and prettified since the days of coal burning, the spired and pointy buildings of Edinburgh still appear caked with coal dust. And I liked that. It felt very 18th Century. I imagine if you squint while walking around downtown, you could manage to miss the Marks & Spencer and Shoe Zone and expect to see a horse and carriage pulling up along side you.
I made my peace early with the idea that I wouldn't be seeing Edinburgh the way I would like. I realize that many of my days for the next 13 years may not be what I want them to be. That's the trade-off I made when we decided to intentionally get pregnant. Edinburgh would be a few days at a child's pace, or rather my child's pace, which means frequent bouts of whining that his legs won't carry him any further and that everything is boring.
Our first morning was spent at the playground across the street from our hotel. Z often talks about missing Seattle when we visit a new playground. His overriding memory of the U.S. seems to be that of the playgrounds and the ones here all seem to pale by comparison.
After exhausting the zip line, swings and the twirling things that make me ill just to watch, we decided to board a bus. I figured we could get a pretty good a tour of the city for 2 pounds rather than take the narrated one for 20. We did what my father does on occasion and that is to ride to the end of the bus line, any line will do, and see where we'd end up. But Edinburgh is fairly small so once we were through the center of the city there wasn't much to look at, just recently built suburbs and service stations. When we got to the final park-and-ride we had to board a different bus and pay for a new pair of tickets. But Z was please with our adventure because on both buses we had the very front seat on the upper deck.
As long as we were on a quest for a new playground, Z was game with my trajectory and I got to see a few of the sites. In the heart of the gardened green space that divides the old and new city, was the castle-themed Princess Street playground. Life is good now that my child is of an age where he knows to scream like a stuck pig if a stranger tries to abduct him. So I went to have a coffee nearby and, though I would have loved to duck into the National Portrait Gallery, I sat back on a park bench with a Raymond Chandler novel, certain that I was at least within screaming distance. Later in the afternoon I managed to maneuver Z into the National Museum of Scotland. As soon as he saw the race car simulator we stood in line for over an hour to drive 2 minutes on a video track after which the staff showed us the door for closing time.
We went to a movie (don't bother with the new Muppet's movie even if you love Tina Fey), ate fancy cake, visited the overpriced Dynamic Earth where the floor shimmied, and did a lot of bus hopping once I realized to buy an unlimited ticket. Perhaps the most fun we had, however, was the night we ordered pizza to the hotel room, watched CBeeBees (the UK equivalent of PBS Kids), and ate chocolate. He was happy and I was delighted to discover that in the UK you can get wine, chilled and sweating, delivered to your door by the pizza guy.
On Friday we ate one last filling English breakfast, this time refusing the baked beans and fried white toast, and left for the next leg of our journey. It would be a long day of travel into the Scottish Highlands, stopping at every pansy-bedecked rural train station along the track, where we would meet up with C in Fort William at the base of Scotland's highest peak. Soon I would have my turn. With Dad back in the picture, I could move again at an adult pace, hike into the hills, and climb rocks without having to beg my child to take a few risks and get a bit sweaty. I'm not about to give up on the things I love to do, though I will have to modify how they happen with Z in our lives. Provided one of us has the ability to compromise, we'll get along. And at the end of the day, he'll get his chocolate and I'll get my wine and all will be good with the world.